MSPs commend General Assembly stance on improving rights of children

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has been commended at Holyrood for backing calls to improve the rights of children.

Green MSPs have backed a motion congratulating commissioners for voting in favour of calling on the Scottish Government to acknowledge the recommendations of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and remove the defence of "justifiable assault" from the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003.

The move would grant youngsters under 16 the same rights as adults.

Equal protection

John Finnie, who represents the Highlands and Islands, lodged a motion which has been backed by MSPs including Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie and Ross Greer, a member of Bearsden CrossParish Church.

It reads: -

That the Parliament welcomes the Church of Scotland General Assembly's vote to recognise corporal punishment as a violent act that is damaging to mental and physical health; further welcomes the assembly's decision to join campaigns that seek an end to the physical punishment of children and to support the development of non-violent parenting skills; believes that legal reform is a crucial preventative measure that will reduce such harm to children; understands that, although there is no evidence that a change to the law results in increased criminal proceedings, it does facilitate widespread culture change; notes that the UK is only one of five EU countries not to have committed to a ban on all physical punishment, and believes that, to provide equal protection within the law for children in Scotland, the defence of "justifiable assault" should be abolished at the earliest opportunity.

Mr Finnie said; "It is time children have the same rights to be safe from physical harm as adults.

"I do not believe that we can continue to drag behind most of Europe in protecting the youngest among us.

"The evidence is clear that physical punishment has a harmful effect on children's development and is thankfully becoming less acceptable in our society.

"I hope that everyone will encourage their MSPs to show their support for the vote by the Church of Scotland and the work done by charities such NSPCC, Barnados, Children 1stand the Children Commissioner by signing the motion in my name."


Speaking after the General Assembly vote last month, former convener of Church and Society Council the Rev Sally Foster-Fulton said: "Bringing up children is one of the most challenging privileges any of us can face.

"But in performing this privilege we must not negate the rights of the child.

"As parents, as a Church, as a society we want the best for our children.

"As a Church we will work with parents and others to support them in doing that."

Commissioners backed a deliverance which also urged officials to work with the Church's social care arm CrossReach and Safeguarding service to provide access to resources to support the development of non-violent parenting skils.